14 Top-Rated Things to Do in Dingle, Ireland
This quaint fishing town is perched near Ireland's southwestern tip in County Kerry. And Dingle is as charming as it is diverse. Its hilly, narrow lanes are the stuff of traveler's dreams, lined by a kaleidoscope of brightly colored shops and restaurants. Traditional Irish jigs can be heard throughout town, following visitors as they traipse through the streets in search of the best view of shimmering Dingle Bay.
A popular stop on tours of the Dingle Peninsula, this Irish-speaking town is a great base for exploring some of the most phenomenal Irish countryside. From scenic Slea Head Drive to the breathtaking Ring of Kerry, there's no lack of spectacular destinations nearby. Plan your sightseeing with our list of the top things to do in Dingle.
1. Gallarus Oratory
An early Christian church dating back over a thousand years, the Gallarus Oratory is the most iconic and well-preserved attraction on the Slea Head Drive (a.k.a. R559). Made of locally sourced stones, the building is in impeccable shape for its age.
Speaking of shape, the oratory resembles an upturned ship that's surrounded by old rock walls and lush mountains. To get to it, visitors must embark on a short walk from the car park. Nearby is the privately-owned visitor center, which offers a spectacular view. Head upstairs to find a sweet café selling excellent coffee, tea, and scones.
Insider's Tip: Parking is free if you choose the lot closest to the Oratory. You'll have to pay if you cross the neighbor's land and park in his lot a bit farther away.
Location: 5 miles west of Dingle on R559, Dingle, County Kerry
Official site: http://www.gallarusoratory.ie/
2. Dingle Lighthouse
The whitewashed Dingle lighthouse was built in 1885 to protect boats from running into Crow Rock off Dingle Harbour.
From the center of town, it will take about 45 minutes to walk to the lighthouse, but the path is beautiful, lined on one side by the shimmering sea and on the other by rolling hills and farmers' fields. Along the route, you'll pass Hussy's Folly, the ruin of a tower built during the late 1800s as a way of employing people during the famine. It was used for merely ornamental purposes and is definitely worth a look.
Getting to the lighthouse can be slightly challenging, especially when the weather is less than stellar. Prepare yourself for a maze of streets and paths leading towards the lighthouse, which is perched atop a large grassy hill. The signage isn't great, so keep your eyes peeled for the beacon peaking out from above.
3. Eask Tower
A medieval stone tower sits at the top of Carhoo Hill, just on the outskirts of town. It rewards all who summit a spectacular view of Dingle Harbour, as well as the Iveragh Peninsula and Blasket Islands.
Built during the Great Famine in 1847, Eask Tower was erected for two reasons: 1. To provide jobs to those in need and 2. to guide ships into the harbor's "blind" mouth.
Once sailors saw the tall beacon, they knew to let their sails down, which would help them slow their entrance into the tricky harbor.
To get here, visitors must trek through muddy fields and sheep pastures, so it's best to wear appropriate footwear. Expect to spend about 30 minutes on your hike to the top, less on the way down.
Insider's Tip: You'll want to make use of the water and brush provided to clean smelly footwear after your walk. It's located at the barn near the entrance to the hike.
Address: Carhoo Hill, Dingle
4. Dingle Harbour
Dingle Harbour is everything you'd expect from a seaside port—bright, cheerful, and filled with gently bobbing boats welcoming visitors to the quaint village.
Backed by vibrant rolling hills, the harbor is filled with vessels of all shapes and sizes. You'll find everything from dinky, rustic fishing boats to startlingly white luxury yachts. If you keep your eyes peeled, you'll likely catch sight of Dingle's most beloved resident, Fungie the dolphin. For a more guaranteed sighting and impressive views of Dingle Bay and the town, book a spot on one of the many boat trips offered from the harbor.
When hunger hits, head out on a short, five-minute stroll straight into the heart of Dingle. Here, you'll find a multitude of unique shops, delightful cafés, and tempting restaurants.
Address: Dingle Harbour, Dingle
5. Swim with Fungie
Dingle's most famous resident lives in the waters of magical Dingle Harbour. Fungie is a playful bottlenose dolphin with a love of people, especially those who are willing to join him for a swim.
For the past 30 years, Fungie has called Dingle home. Living alone in the harbor, he's become known as the "longest-standing friendly solitary dolphin in the world."
Also known as the Dingle Dolphin, Fungie loves to get up close and personal with swimmers, boaters, and even those enjoying a walk along the shore. You haven't really been to Dingle if you haven't had a Fungie sighting.
The town is so obsessed with its mammalian friend that they've created a statue in his honor and a bevy of touristy Fungie paraphernalia. There's even a Fungie festival.
Official site: http://fungiedolphin.com/
6. Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium
While small in comparison to other aquariums (like those in Dubai and Sydney), Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium is a massive crowd pleaser for people of all ages. In Ireland, it's considered the largest attraction of its kind and it's a popular thing to do, particularly on a rainy day.
Despite its small size, Dingle Oceanworld packs in a ton of worthwhile exhibits. The Asian small-clawed otters are a fan fave, as are the sand tiger sharks and gentoo penguins. You'll also find a butterfly oasis (be warned, it's quite muggy in there), a touch tank, and a reptile area that houses an African dwarf crocodile and other scaly creatures.
Admission is reasonably priced, and you can feel good about your contribution, since much of the funds go to the aquarium's conservation work. In addition to helping boost the population of Ireland's only native toad species, the endangered Natterjack toad, staff help rehabilitate sea turtles and protect sea turtles, whales, and dolphins.
Insider's Tip: You won't need to spend much more than two hours here but be sure to stop by one of the feeding experiences.
Location: The Wood, County Kerry
Official site: https://www.dingle-oceanworld.ie/
7. St. James Church
St. James Church has been serving the Dingle community for over 200 years. Located in the heart of Main Street, this spectacular building is steeped in history and boasts an adorable garden.
The acoustics within the stone walls are fantastic, which makes it an optimal venue for concerts. If you time your visit right, you'll be able to buy tickets to hear a local violinist, guitarist, singer, or organist fill the hallowed walls with magical sound.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a more authentic Irish experience than attending a concert at St. James. Seating can be a bit tough (hard wooden pews aren't forgiving), so you may want to fold up a sweater or bring along a small cushion. The traditional Irish music, which often includes bagpipes, is made even more memorable by enjoying it in this beautiful structure.
Insider's tip: Concerts happen most Monday nights. Tickets can be purchased at the town's visitor center.
Address: Main Street, Dingle
Official site: https://stjamesdingle.com/
8. Inch Beach
Although not officially in Dingle, Inch beach is worth the 25-minute drive east. It's hands down one of the most beautiful strands in the country. It's also a Blue Flag Beach, which means it's been recognized by the Foundation for Environmental Education as clean and safe while also being commended for promoting environmental awareness and sustainable development.
Despite its name, Inch beach is anything but tiny, occupying about 2.5 miles of coast on the Dingle Peninsula between Dingle and Castlemaine Harbours. It's a hot spot for surfers, and the tides and current are strong, so keep an extra close hold of little ones.
During summer months, this popular beach can get a bit crowded, and cars are allowed to park on the sand, so try to plan your trip earlier in the day or off season if you're hoping for a more solitary adventure. Low tide offers the best view and even more sandy expanse to explore.
9. Fahan Beehive Huts
Head west from town on Slea Head Road, and you'll reach the intriguing Fahan Beehive huts in just a few minutes. The huts lie up the steep, southern slope of Mount Eagle and share the remarkable landscape with bleating sheep. Also known as Caher Conor, these dry stone, cone-shaped huts (a.k.a. clocháns) are a must-see.
Dating them has proven a difficult task. The earliest are said to have appeared around 3100 BC, while others were built in the 1950s. That said, many historians believe these particular intricate structures date to the 12th century. But again, it's hard to be sure.
It's also believed that at one point, over 400 huts existed in this spot. Today, a mere five well-preserved houses remain. They seem to be linked through interconnected doorways, suggesting they were owned by one family.
10. Fairy Forts
The Fairy Forts are a hidden gem tucked back from the road on a field overlooking the ocean. To an untrained eye, they resemble grassy mounds deposited in the middle of a farmer's field.
The forts are, in fact, overgrown, but this disarray was a purposeful decision, not a measure of someone's laziness. Remnants of circular medieval dwellings, these ruins have a long history. Locals believe they're of magical importance and act as the entrance to the fairy world.
According to various legends, the fairies will be incredibly angered if the mounds are disrupted or disrespected. The result: angry, vengeful fairies, and no one wants to risk that! No wonder they haven't been touched.
Today, access to the forts comes with a small price tag and includes pellets to feed horses, goats, and sheep, which kids will truly enjoy.
Location: Kilvickadownig, Dingle
11. The Famine Cottage
Built in the early 19th century, this mud and stone cottage stands in excellent shape today. Its cool, dark rooms transport visitors back in time, to the difficult days of the Irish Potato Famine.
As the wind whips your face while you wander the hilltop grounds surrounding the cottage, you'll appreciate the insulation and indoor heating found in your own cozy home. Life was tough on this rugged terrain, yet this incredible house has stood the test of time, never falling prey to the harsh elements.
Ever wondered how sheepdogs wrangle sheep? You'll learn this and more at the Famine Cottage. Regular sheep dog performances are an added perk at this impressive site. A local sheep famer works his magic, enticing his dogs to gather and control the sheep while tourists watch. It's a memory that will stay with you always.
Address: Slea Head Drive, Fahan, Ventry, Dingle
Official site: http://www.famine-cottage.com/
12. Greenlane Gallery
Fine art meets jewelry in this eccentric gallery located in the heart of Dingle. From locally crafted sculptures to modern paintings, you're sure to find a souvenir that will stand the test of time.
Bright and airy, the gallery's rooms are spread out on three floors of a charming historic house. Each space is packed with things to see, so be sure to visit all levels.
The gallery features works by trending Irish artists, as well as international painters, sculptors, and crafters. No need to feel pressured to buy anything while you're admiring the diverse selection. While there's plenty for sale (much of which is reasonably priced) the real fun is found in exploring the various treasures.
Insider's Tip: If the painting that catches your eye is too pricey, speak with the friendly shop staff; there's likely a more affordable print for sale.
Location: Holyground, Dingle
Official site: https://www.greenlanegallery.com/
13. Tour the Ring of Kerry
Dingle lies to the north of one of Ireland's main tourist attractions—the Ring of Kerry on the Iveragh Peninsula. If you do only one thing while visiting the Emerald Isle, make it a tour of the Ring. You won't regret it, we promise.
Traveling this road, be it by car, bus, bike, or foot, takes visitors through 10,000 years of history across over 100 miles of vast landscapes. Crashing waves, jagged cliffs, lush forests, and cascading waterfalls are only a few of the spectacular sights that nature has in store for visitors to this natural wonderland.
A few of the most important stops to make include, Kenmare, Sneem, Caherdaniel, the Torc Waterfall, Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park, and Ladies View.
Insider's Tip: This attraction isn't technically in Dingle, but it's a must-do for anyone visiting the area. Start in Killorglin (about an hour's drive from Dingle). It's the first stop on the Ring of Kerry route.
14. Drive to Slea Head
Slea Head Drive begins and ends in Dingle. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way, this circuitous route covers the western edge of the Dingle Peninsula and passes a ton of stop-worthy places.
While driving, you'll see the Fahan Beehive huts we mentioned earlier. Look closely, and you can spot the silhouette of the impressively craggy Skellig Michael to the south. Two of the most recent Star Wars movies were filmed at this spectacular, craggy location.
Other top attractions include the small village of Ballyferriter, a fishing village called Ballydavid, and, of course, Slea Head.
The drive mostly follows the coast, often hugging the cliff tops. At times, though, it veers farther inland. Parts can be quite narrow and steep, so be warned. The views are unsurpassable.
Insider's Tip: Set aside at least half a day for this drive—you won't want the amazing scenery to whiz by. If you can head out while the sun's shining, even better.
Official site: https://dingle-peninsula.ie/explore/slea-head-drive.html
Where to Stay in Dingle for Sightseeing
Dingle is a great jumping off spot for touring the best scenery Ireland has to offer. With the Wild Atlantic Way, Dingle Peninsula, and Ring of Kerry virtually on its doorstep, it's no wonder so many tourists choose to spend a night (or more) in this adorable fishing village. When it comes to offering these guests hotels, Dingle definitely delivers. From luxury to budget offerings, Dingle boasts hotels to suit every budget, and all of them can rightly claim impeccable views.
- Luxury & Mid-Range Hotels: The Dingle Skellig Hotel is as close as you'll get to a luxury hotel in this small fishing village. A four-star beauty with impeccable views of Dingle Bay, the hotel also boasts an impressive spa, kids' club, pool, and the stellar Coastguard Restaurant. If you're looking for quaint old-world charm, Dingle Benner's Hotel has it in spades. The antique furniture invites you to laze about with a good book, and afternoon tea is divine. It even includes gluten-free options. Those who favor a more modern setting will enjoy a stay at Dingle Bay Hotel, which is mere steps from the Dingle Marina. Run by the friendly Brosnan family, this updated hotel boasts 25 rooms and a great restaurant. Small but sweet, Dingle Harbour Lodge is perfectly located near both the marina and town shops and restaurants. The rooms are bright and cheerful, and complimentary parking is an added plus. Heaton's Guesthouse has the most magnificent location. Situated directly on the water's edge, this family-run, four-star guesthouse is quiet and comfortable.
- Budget Hotels: A clean and comfortable bed and breakfast, Dingle Eask View is as affordable as it is pleasant. It's situated about a 10-minute walk from the town center, a bit off the beaten path. Quirky and quaint, the Quayside B&B guesthouse is a converted stable oozing with charm. The Waterfront Dingle hotel offers another good budget option. This terraced house boasts amazing views.
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